Researchers at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center (RADC), currently focused on several large ongoing studies of aging and dementia that include more than 2,000 individuals, have found a new tool in their battle against Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia: markerless motion capture.
According to Bob Dawe, PhD, assistant professor of radiology at the RADC (a department at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago), there is an increasing recognition in the role gait, mobility and physical activity play in influencing the brain health and successful aging and quality of life in older adults.
Because many of the seniors in the study are not able or willing to travel to the facility, a team of RADC researchers are using iPi Soft motion capture technology in conjunction with Microsoft Kinect motion sensor devices to go into different communities to meet with participants and conduct annual tests of cognitive ability, health status questionnaires, blood draws and other research. The goal, he says, is to better understand the factors most influential in staving off these diseases.
“Using iPi Soft mocap software paired with Microsoft Kinect, we now have a very accurate digital record of participants’ motions as they complete different motor performances, from which we can better quantify myriad facets of gait, balance and mobility,” Dawe says. “We compared some of the metrics extracted with iPi Motion Capture to the gold-standard optical tracking system in the motion analysis laboratory and the timing measures are spot on. And, the accuracy of estimated joint angles is also very respectable. On top of that, the iPi Soft motion-capture system is more user-friendly than the professional motion tracking rig.”
Dawe explained that the RADC first became interested in using the Kinect as a tool to capture aspects of mobility in its older research participants, but soon learned that the device alone would not be substantial enough to yield accurate results.
“iPi Soft’s iPi Recorder and iPi Mocap Studio are polished products that did not require extensive programming knowledge,” Dawe notes. “It worked right out of the box in just a few moments, with the installation package taking care of all the necessary components without any of the cryptic error messages I'd become accustomed to with some of the open-source packages I'd worked with in the past.”
The RADC testing measures about a dozen performances, such as walking a straight line, rising from a chair, standing with eyes closed for 20 seconds, standing on one foot, and so forth. Dawe explained that iPi motion capture integrated perfectly with their current gait and mobility-testing collection strategies in that it imposed no additional testing burden on participants, such as the need to shed clothing or wear sensor suits.
Additionally, the systems worked intuitively so the RADC researchers were not preoccupied with the computer during the testing session and could therefore maintain their focus on the study participants. Using iPi mocap with Kinect sensors also yielded better spatial and temporal resolution and a wider field of view. Combined with its portability and easy setup made, it is ideal for conducting research, especially when going into the field and into participants’ homes with limited open space.
“Adding iPi Soft and Kinect was just a matter of training our researchers and devising a consistent placement strategy for the hardware and figuring out how to handle all the data,” Dawe notes.